MK and I will be married seven years tomorrow. It feels like yesterday that I first met him. Online. (Yes, there’s a reason why I’m devoted to the Internet.) We met on a matrimony site. I was 23 and in a a fit of complete indecisiveness, had charted out two completely unrelated directions for myself that year–one road that led to a doctorate in English Literature and the other to a matrimonial site. I had gone through a bad breakup over a year ago, and was really lonely. I decided I’d take on whatever comes my way first–academics or a relationship. I hadn’t told my parents (or friends) about this matrimonial thing. On the one hand, I was studying for my GRE and on the other, checking emails on the sly to see if anyone had responded.
Apart from the usual creeps, I wasn’t getting too much interest–I wasn’t exactly “wife material.” My profile said I had a Masters in the Humanities, I liked an occasional drink, wasn’t very religious, and was evidently not in the tall/fair/slim category. To make matters worse, I had a job in a start up dealing with eLearning–what the heck is that? I hadn’t had the guts to approach anyone, either. I’d keep checking once a day just to see if my market value had improved but not much was happening.
Then, one day, a bloke dressed in a very corporate suit sent me a message saying his gran also taught English, and that he found my profile very interesting and could we chat? I went to his profile–there were a lot f details about the family and a bit about his education and work; nothing pompous about values and religion or anything superfluous like that. Also, I didn’t believe the gran bit at all. But just because it was one of the few emails I had received, and the chap looked quite pleasant and trustworthy, (of course, I trust too easily but anyway) I sent across a response–something absolutely silly like did his gran teach literature or linguistics? I know now that the question stumped him. We chatted very briefly over email for two days. And then, he suddenly said, “You know, the best part of communication these days is the SMS (this was long ago, remember–we didn’t know it was to be called “texts!”) facility. You can chat anywhere, anytime (no 3G then).” And he shoots off his number. I froze. Does this mean he wants to talk to me now? What if he’s a stalker? What if he calls me incessantly for days on end at odd hours and says dirty things? But what if he’s THE guy? He’d been all polite and everything all this while–perhaps I should give it a shot?
That night, once I was in my room, I spent a restless hour or so fidgeting with the phone and not paying any attention to my GRE word list. Finally, I turned off the lights, walked to the window and dialed the number. A deep, pleasant, very alert voice answered. I gulped. “Hi, is that M?” “Yeah, who’s this?” “Guess who!” (Why did I say that? How did I suddenly get playful? Why was my voice so calm and perky?) Finally, I told him. “Oh, hi! Actually, I’m in a meeting–can I call you back a little later?” I was sure he thought I was desperate. He didn’t want to talk to me. He was never going to call back. I tried to go back to my studies, my ears red and burning with embarrassment but I couldn’t concentrate. I kept thinking about how warm he sounded and my head kept telling me to stop thinking about him. The phone vibrated in the next 15 minutes. It was him! We ended up chatting from 11 pm to post 5 am that night and then the rest of the week. In the day, through the night. We talked about childhoods, grandparents, work, horses, what films we liked–the usual stuff–interspersed with long silences and laughter. As dawn would peek over the hills, and one of us would drowsy, the other would offer to hang up. Of course, we never hung up immediately. And even if we did, we called back in no time.
At the end of the week, we finally met at a mall. He had the most warm, awkward smile and the most honest, smiling eyes I had ever seen on a guy. We went into a restaurant for lunch but he was a little uncomfortable (for a reason I will tell you when we’re all ready to talk about it). So after we had soup, he offered to go someplace else. I began to get a bit worried, frankly. But I put on a bold face, and agreed to go someplace quieter, where we could talk. We came out of the mall and thought about where to go. Finally, he said “I live close by and I can’t think of anywhere else to go. Would you mind coming back to my place?” I gulped a bit and said “Sure!’ wondering what he’d think and what if he’d take advantage or something. I made sure my phone had enough battery life, put the home number on my last called list, and sat with him in the auto rickshaw.
We entered a very bright, residential area and went up a very decent looking, seemingly family-oriented building. He turned the key and we entered a bare apartment. There were basic curtains, a sofa loaded with ties, pink papers, bags, books, and other stuff. A mattress lay on the floor, not very neatly made. He showed me around. One bedroom had a double-bed; again towering high with endless papers, business magazines, ties, socks and other bachelor stuff. A washing machine stood bored in a corner. The other bedroom was even more bare with the exception of an old office desk that had a dusty PC on it and sundry other minor furniture. The kitchen had water bottles and Maggi wrappers. I asked him why the house was so bare despite the two odd years he was living there–he said he was waiting for the woman of his life to come along so they could do it up together. Sahi jawab, I said in my head!
Finally, we sat down on the mattress in the living room. He drew the curtains to let in light; I think he wanted me to feel secure. We sat next to each other with our legs outstretched. I saw his feet for the first time–strong, broad, clean, good looking feet. The kind that makes you think they belong to a good guy. He was still uncomfortable. Finally, after gulping several times and mustering up the courage, he confided in me–and when he was done, I heaved a sigh of relief. He had not kept some dark, dirty secret from me; I had realized it about him the moment I met him and it was, in my mind, the smallest detail ever. I was confident I would iron it out if we got married. I was too busy looking beyond that tiny detail at this honest, seemingly tall guy who, I wished would just envelop me in his arms. By now, he was relieved that I wasn’t offended by what he had just told me and when I told him it didn’t bother me one bit, he smiled that warm smile of his that reaches his eyes and tuns them to slits. I said I was hungry and he gave me a quizzical look when I said we should get an additional topping of pineapple on our BBQ Pizza. Some laughter happened. “Toh, shaadi karegi?” he asked. I smiled.
Tomorrow it will be seven years since we tied the knot on an unusually rainy October morning. I won’t say we have gone through a lot, but we haven’t had it particularly easy either. But whatever it was, through thick and through thin, this man has stood by my side with unwavering support. Through illnesses, through depression, through agonies of career switches, he has always given me the correct advice, the necessary support, and unusual selflessness. He has nurtured in me the confidence to do something on my own and always given me the extra push that I always need to do something new. He makes me coffee and chai when I have my sinus attacks, and always, always makes sure I have the covers on me when it is cold. He is the best father Avanee could ever have–one that drops her off to school every single day, sings silly songs with her and takes her on walks. I never did my doctorate; but here I am, fueling a new dream, redefining what I wanted from life and achieving it–all thanks to MK.
Seven years have passed by, and I still feel lonely if he’s late from work. Seven years have gone by, and I’m still that 23 year old standing in the window in a dark room, looking at a light in the distance and melting at the reassuring voice on the other end of the phone.